In Brief: What's Good
- Even if you've never seen another Rocky movie (like me), the movie stands on its own pretty well and does a good job making you like & understand the Rocky character.
- The end credit sequence contains video of various random people running up the famous Philadelphia steps imitating Rocky's run up the steps when he's training. It's somewhat funny. Stay for the credits.
In Brief: What's Not So Good
- The first half of the movie is a little slow.
- The background piano music is a little sappy and overly noticeable at times.
I've never seen another Rocky movie, and I don't like boxing. I had plenty of reason to not like this movie, but it turned out to be a really nice story about courage and determination.
Until this movie came out, I never knew that Sylvester Stallone wrote all the Rocky movies and directed all but two. You can tell from the way the movie is made that this character and the story are close to Stallone's heart. Stallone and Rocky go hand in hand.
The concept for Rocky's comeback is done really well. A computer program highlighted on ESPN simulates a fight between the current undefeated champ and a younger version of Rocky still in his prime. In the simulation, Rocky actually beats the champ.
Still depressed about the death of his love Adrian and the emotional distance his son (Milo Ventimiglia) puts between them, Rocky fills the hole in his life by accepting the offer to fight the current champ in a real-life exhibition fight in Las Vegas. The champ doesn't like the idea. If he wins, he looks bad for beating up an old man. If he loses he looks bad for getting beaten up by an old man. When Rocky gives in to the idea, the champ's managers talk him into the fight.
What follows is Rocky's training montage, set to the Rocky theme song. Somehow, I'm guessing this is an element present in most, if not all, of the Rocky movies, but I actually liked it.
Another subplot involves Rocky befriending a local bartender and her teenage son. This is a nice subplot. In a typical hollywood movie, it'd be easy to set up the bartender as Rocky's new love interest and the teenage son as jaded and unaccepting of Rocky's old man ways.
Instead, the subplot takes a more subtle, mature, and realistic approach. Rocky is just trying to be a nice guy to this woman and her son, without ulterior motive. That really cemented Rocky as a likable and generous guy in my book.
For a movie about a boxing champ, Rocky Balboa is a very pleasant & refreshing movie. It's very well made, guilty only of being unspectacular, or else I may have given it a higher grade.
From people who have seen the other Rocky movies, I've heard that Rocky V was a major disappointment, even to Stallone himself. I would say Rocky Balboa redeems the franchise for the fifth installment and is a worthy way of wrapping up the long career of the movie's titular character (unless, of course, they do a seventh movie).
Fun Facts from Internet Movie Database
The movie contains flashbacks from all the other Rocky movies except Rocky V, which even Stallone himself admits is the weak link in the series. Allegedly, there is a fight scene that uses background images from an actual match that Stallone attended himself; and consequently, you should be able to see Stallone simultaneously as himself in the audience and as Rocky in the ring.